Tuesday, July 22, 2014

GI Joe: A Real American History - Part 4

GI Joe History - The Bush/Clinton Years.

President George H.W. Bush enters office in 1989 and only lasts for one term, leaving in 1993. That "Read My Lips" comment hurts him in any reality. President Clinton is elected and serves for two terms, from 1993 until 2001. The important element to remember from the toy line is that GI Joe ended in 1994 and ended with a large chunk of the line focused on Star Brigade.

During the Reagan years, GI Joe was a dominant force in the battle against Cobra. Sure, Cobra won a few rounds, but GI Joe dominated in the overall war, slowly but surely, crushing Cobra's forces. GI Joe had a huge budget involving personnel and hi-tech weapons systems.
Cobra gets effectively beaten throughout Bush's term, with a final, critical defeat during Clinton's first year. Cobra is basically over - finished. While there are still military issues that need addressing throughout the world, Cobra is defeated and President Clinton makes the decision to shut down the GI Joe team basically due to the end of the threat of Cobra and being a huge budget item. Or is there more to that?
Since the cartoons are basically over and the toy line is basically dead, now I get to just use my imagination and turn the world on edge, really digging into my weird alt-history.

In the early 90's, Cobra Commander and his top financial advisers see that failure is on the horizon. Cobra will fall. The most dramatic event that occurred that set the full might of the GI Joe team upon Cobra's ass was the use of the Cobra orbiting space station to use it's space based weapons to attack American soil. No, I don't have the details on this, I'm making it up almost as I go along. I remember considering this, but don't recall the details. 

GI Joe gears up for a final assault on the Cobra space station using the Defiant and Crusader combat shuttles. Yes, that would mean two shuttle complex systems. Meanwhile, Cobra bases are falling across the world. In the early 90's, Cobra Commander takes his most trusted officer, Overlord, and directs him to start pulling in resources and key personnel and consolidating assets within countries that would act as safe havens.

Destro and the Baroness are gone, back to Scotland. Major Bludd, Firefly, Scrap Iron, Zartan and the Drednoks have all abandoned Cobra Commander. Even Tomax and Xamot are withdrawing their financial support from the "legitimate" side of Cobra.

A final, epic battle occurs, both in the American desert and in orbit around the Earth. The shuttle complexes are attacked, with the Crusader complex being destroyed just after launch. Cobra forces are ultimately crushed in the American desert. The two shuttles take the fight to the Cobra station, with the station being overrun and destroyed; the remains tumbling into the Gulf of Mexico over the skies of the nearly abandoned Cobra Island.

And an escape pod tumbles to Earth, parachutes deploying nearly too late, and plunges into the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Costa Rica. As the escape pod begins to sink, a man crawls out and starts swimming toward shore. <cut to an underwater scene> The escape pod sinks and a tattered blue mask drifts out of the opened hatch and drifts away in the currents.

Cobra is finished, GI Joe has been a great success in the 12 year war against Cobra and humanity goes along it's way, still fighting and killing each other over land, resources, or beliefs.

The next incarnations of GI Joe fall into this time period during the hiatus of the Real American Hero line. Sgt. Savage and GI Joe: Extreme are the two standouts of the line. What do I do about them? Well, Sgt. Savage works for me, but only in his 12" format.
He's right there in the middle, between Falcon and Dial Tone. I don't see Savage as a Captain America knock-off; he's just an extraordinary soldier who was a part of the GI Joe team.

GI Joe: Extreme? Nope, not going there. I'm dropping them from my alt-history. The only way that they would exist is as an actual toy line loosely based on the actual declassified GI Joe team. Extreme just sucks.

The next incarnation of GI Joe are the TRU commemorative series in the late 90's and early 00's and they just sucked in regards to quality. Again, maybe just a toy line based on the real GI Joe team.

The next incarnation of GI Joe are the GI Joe vs Cobra lines from 2002 to 2006. Cobra is back, but how? Where did they come from? Wasn't Cobra dead?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Stay tuned for GI Joe: A Real American History - Part 5.

The Death and Rebirth of Cobra.

Remember the Fallen

Despite political differences, despite being enemy combatants - sometimes you just have to remember that men fight and men die. War is a bloody, nasty business.
"C'mon, kid, let's just keep moving."

"Rest easy, your fight is over."

Marines dead on the shores of Guadalcanal during World War 2. 
A long way from home. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

GI Joe: A Real American History - Part 3

GI Joe History - The Reagan/Bush Years

As a refresher, President Reagan was in office during the years 1981 through 1989. At that time, there was a huge sense of national pride and military spending was enormous. The United States basically out-spent the USSR, eventually causing the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I think this can parallel to both the actual sales of the toy line as well as the implied growth of a "real" GI Joe team. The sense of national pride in the US military, as well as an incredible marketing strategy by Hasbro. As a by-product, in my alt-history, Cobra is growing as well. Since the late 70's, Cobra has been slowly gaining strength in the shadows of society. This can also be implied by the GI Joe club's recent Convention exclusive 12" sets. There have been enemy figures in blue uniforms with emblems that could be implied as pre-Cobra insignia.

As an observer prior to his election, Reagan would have witnessed the events of the failed hostage rescue mission. As soon as he was elected, President Reagan invited the now retired Joseph Colton with a plan - to form an elite team of soldiers that can combat the forces of evil in the world. This time, things would be different. There would be more than adequate funding to support the time and the command structure would be limited and compartmentalized, with limited access to the eyes of politicians. Only a select set of commanders would be in charge of the new anti-terrorist team, code named GI Joe.

Colton is promoted to General and given authority over the team, but prefers to operate more from behind the scenes, rather than directly with the troops. He leaves that with his new hand-selected team leaders, primarily one young dynamic Colonel Clayton Abernathy. Once Abernathy is eventually promoted to General, Colton again heads back to retirement. General's Flagg, Hollingsworth, Austin, and Admirals Ledger and Colby also serve as the top command structure of the GI Joe team, as well as all of the ancillary elements needed to keep the team properly functioning. This includes additional military personnel acting not just as base support, but also as additional combat troops,, such as the Green-shirt program. Many front-line GI Joe "agents" were recruited from the ranks of the Green-shirts.

The basic line-up of characters simply can not run the team without support crews. Somebody has to arm the Skystrikers and maintain the Maulers. Clutch and the rest of the drivers can't take care of all of the motorized vehicles. It just doesn't make sense.

According to our actual history, there were few significant public uses of the military during the Reagan years, but there was plenty of action during the those same years in the alt-history of GI Joe. Cobra was very engaged and many of their exploits, both in cartoons and comics, could be considered "actual" events. Since this is my blog and my idea of historical integration, I'm going to be tempted to just cut out some of the nonsense, primarily from the cartoons.

Let's look at some key elements from the cartoon mini-series and the regular cartoon series. The MASS Device? Sure, why not? But maybe not quite to the full amount of silliness of the series. Yes, to an actual matter transmitter created by Cobra, but it was an unstable, impractical, and expensive device that was destroyed by the Joe Team.

How about the Weather Dominator from the "Revenge of Cobra" mini-series? Again, why not? That's the fun of GI Joe as well as an element of my alt-history of GI Joe - the hi-tech, edge of the future technology. But, again, the technology was unstable and proved to be unsustainable as a practical weapon system.

How about those "Pyramids of Darkness"? Nope, I'm not going there. I'm just writing off that series. No Fatal Fluffies, please. BUT... a key element of the Pyramids of Darkness proved to be true in regards to Cobra. Cobra does indeed create a manned, armed space station which will prove to be key factor in the future of Cobra in this alt-history.

Next up would be "Arise, Serpentor, Arise!" Yes, please! I think this is a great tie-in to the comics as well. I do like Serpentor, especially how Hama portrayed him and his eventual demise. More on Serpentor later, but he does/did/will exist in my alt-history.

I'm not going to dig through all of the episodes of the Sunbow GI Joe series, but I liked a lot of the different elements of the series. The key element that is most important to me is that everyone could fly Skystrikers (no, that's just silly). I'm talking about Extensive Enterprises (EE). Did Hama use Extensive Enterprises? I don't think so, but maybe? I like EE because of what they represent - a "legitimate" business that financially supports Cobra. Even with the comic companies such as Arbco and Broca Brothers, there is an implication that Cobra has a certain level of connection with society, which will eventually be Cobra's greatest area of success. 

What else from the comics? Synthoids? Monsters? Cold Slither? Cobra-thon? Ugh... Maybe the Synthoids, because that could serve as the foundation for the cloned body for Serpentor. I don't know about the rest of the stuff. I would have to dig into an episode guide to see which or how they could be included into my world. Reader help? Hey, offer me a suggestion in the comments!

What about GI Joe: The Movie? You know, Cobra-La? Well, maybe elements. Not the dumb-ass Falcon characterization for sure. What about Cobra-La? Sure, why not? The Broadcast Energy Transmitter could have worked and even a lost civilization up in the Himalayan mountains or wherever they were supposed to be could have work - but not as the true origin of Cobra - hell no! The "Cobra-La" mission would have been buried deep, deep within the secret mission files of the GI Joe team.

Wait! What about "Operation Dragonfire" and the DIC series? Sorry, I'm doing a retcon of even my history. They didn't happen!

As far as the Hama comics, I'm more than happy to include many of those events into my "canon." The Battle of Springfield, the creation of Cobra Island, the Cobra Civil War, and the fictional nations of Trucial Abysma, Sierra Gordo, Benzheen, Frusenland would all work for me. The fictional nation of Borovia could have easily stood in for the actual military events in Bosnia and Kosovo.  

Except maybe the latter years - the comic was almost turning into SNAKE-EYES! with the GI Joe team. Snake-Eyes was the GI Joe version of Wolverine or the Punisher - he was everywhere. Too much Snake-Eyes!! I wonder if some editor at Marvel came to Hama and asked if they could work out a Snake-Eyes/Wolverine team-up? I wouldn't be surprised.

As my mind travels through this fictional world of mine, I see a very active GI Joe team during much of the 80's rolling right on into the elder Bush presidency. President George H.W. Bush served only one term, which would have been a pivotal point in the history of both GI Joe and Cobra.

Time to wrap up this chapter. Next time, I'll discuss the Bush term and move through Clinton's presidency. Plus, the fall of Cobra!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

GI Joe: A Real American History - Part 2

I know I'm going to piss off some people with my posts. I apparently pissed off a few on a GI Joe Facebook group where I linked to Part 1. Someone made a snarky comment about how prosperous everyone has been under Democratic Presidents and how everyone has suffered under Republican Presidents. Just a few comments was enough to alert the moderators and my post was deleted. No harm done; I probably shouldn't have posted the link there due to politics being involved.

The initial stupid comment involved the actual buying of the toys in regards to either a Republican or Democratic President, which was totally ridiculous because the 80's were huge in terms of sales for GI Joe product. But that's not really the point of where I'm going with this series. I'll address the toy sales of the 80's, but not yet. Besides, the main focus is primarily a question of "What If?"

What if GI Joe and Cobra were real and how would they have interacted with how our history progressed?
Let's get Part 2 rolling along with a look back at the original 12" GI Joe and the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter Administrations. That would seem to be a lot to deal with, but based on the history of the toys - not so much.

In one of the later issues of the Marvel GI Joe comic series, Larry Hama crafted a story in which a young Lt. Joesph Colton was pulled out of Vietnam and delivered to the office of President Kennedy. The President tasked Colton to create a small team that would undertake special missions and report directly to the President. Unfortunately, this meeting occurred early in November of 1963. Based on the military aspect of the toy line ending in 1969, it would be easy to assume that Colton retired from the military in that year.

That would mean that the GI Joe team of the 60's served under the prime direction of President Lyndon Johnson. Now I don't know much about Johnson, but I'm guessing the President had Colton working some pretty dirty missions. 

Colton retired from the military in 1969 and got together with some other former GI Joe team members and formed the Adventure team, a somewhat covert team that undertook a few "spy" missions, but primarily were a group of explorers and researchers, finding lost treasures or discovering unique animal species. 

Perhaps funding ran out, or maybe the former GI Joe team just needed to retire. GI Joe and the Adventure Team ended in 1976. How does that work out with Presidents? No real impact, Nixon came along, got impeached, Ford served for less than a term, and then we have President Carter.

One important event from the 60's related to the anti-war protests - the seeds of Cobra are being sown. 

The biggest military issue in relation to GI Joe would come in 1980 during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. An attempted rescue mission failed and soldier's lives were lost and no hostages were rescued. This is important because it had been initially implied that that was the mission in which Snake Eyes had his face and vocal cords permanently ruined. It was later described as another unrelated rescue mission, but it still would have been sometime in the early 80's, prior to the creation of the new GI Joe team. 

Another important issue to consider is that Snake Eyes' history includes serving in Vietnam. That would make him between 60 and 70 years old. Same guy in Rise of Cobra and Retaliation? I doubt it. I'll address that issue much later in this history series.

We come to a close at the end of the Carter Administration with a failed military mission that had potential, but not the proper tools and authority. 

Get ready for President Ronald Reagan!

But what about the Super Joe Adventure Team toy line from 1977-1978? Do I really have to talk about them? Can't I just ignore them? How about this -  the Super Joe line was an actual toy product of my alt history loosely based on the declassified, somewhat fictionalized missions of the real Adventure Team. Does that work?

If not, please feel free to give me some ideas in the comments!

GI Joe: A Real American History - Part 1

A few years ago, I got into reading one of Harry Turtledove's alternate history series of books. Turtledove is a prolific writer and seems to focus on an alt history genre of science fiction. The particular series that I read involved reptilian aliens invading Earth mid World War 2 and the resulting chaos, conquest, combat, and eventual cooperation that ensued.

I bring this up primarily in regards to the alt history that can be involved within the world of GI Joe. As the Real American Hero line shut down in 1994, I remember comparing the history of the toy line to the actual history of the prior 12 years.

I'm pretty sure that many of the kids who played with GI Joe were unconcerned by such matters. Since I was older, 19 when I started collecting and married with a young son in 1994, politics was more on my mind.

I always thought that it was interesting that the biggest years of growth within the toy line occurred during the Reagan presidency and the line ended during the Clinton presidency. Hmm.

Let me clear up a few things before I continue. I am Conservative and don't much like most of the politics of most liberal Democrats. I'm not intending to bash the Dems, but I probably will anyway. I'll probably bash on some Republicans as well.

Since 2014 is the 50th Anniversary of GI Joe, I wanted to consider and compare the 50 year history of the toys and actual 50 years of history.

I think that the first step in this discussion is to lay out a basic history of the past 50 years, primarily focusing on who was president and the major conflicts or other events along the way. Please remember, I'm just writing this for the hell of it; I'm not purporting to be an expert or authority on anything. I would like to spur a creative discussion on the topic though. I'd rather avoid insults and nastiness, but this is on the internet, so...

Let's look at the Presidents of the past 50 years.
John Kennedy - 1961-1963
Lyndon Johnson - 1963-1969
Richard Nixon - 1969-1974
Gerald Ford - 1974-1977
Jimmy Carter - 1977-1981
Ronald Reagan - 1981-1989
George HW Bush - 1989-1993
Bill Clinton - 1993-2001
George W Bush - 2001-2009
Barack Obama - 2009-Current

Now for some of the major US conflicts or events during the past 50 years.
Vietnam - 1953-1975
Iranian hostage rescue attempt - 1981 - 1979
Grenada - 1983
Panama - 1989-1990
Persian Gulf (Kuwait) - 1990-1991
Restore Hope (Somalia) - 1992-1994
Bosnian War - 1993-1995
Uphold Democracy (Haiti) - 1994-1995
Kosovo - 1998-1999
September 11, 2001
Afghanistan - 2001-Present
Iraq - 2003-2011
Libya - 2011

Too much war. The nature of man. That sort of thing.

Let's look at the 50 year history of the GI Joe toy line.
Military 12" - 1964-1969
Adventure Team - 1970-1976
Super Joe - 1977-1978
A Real American Hero - 1982-1994
Sgt. Savage - 1994
GI Joe Extreme - 1995
GI Joe vs Cobra - 2002-2006
Sigma 6 - 2005-2007
25th ARAH Anniversary - 2007-2009
Resolute - 2009
Rise of Cobra - 2009
Renegades - 2010-2011
Pursuit of Cobra/30th - 2010-2012
Retaliation - 2013-2014

Now let me dig a little deeper into the events, teams, and other key moments of the ARAH toy line.
USS Flagg - 1985
Terror Drome - 1986
Defiant Complex - 1987
Battleforce 2000 - 1987
Cobra-La - 1987
Tiger Force - 1988
Night Force - 1988-1989
Iron Grenadiers - 1988
Slaughter's Marauders - 1989
Python Patrol - 1989
Sky Patrol - 1990
Eco-Warriors - 1991-1992
DEF - 1992
Ninja Force - 1992-1993
Mega Marines - 1993
Star Brigade - 1993-1994

One more list and I can start combining, comparing, twisting, and squeezing everything together. Let’s look at the screen portrayal of GI Joe, primarily the ARAH characters.
The MASS Device - 1983
Revenge of Cobra (Weather Dominator) - 1984
Pyramids if Darkness - 1985
Arise, Serpentor, Arise - 1986
Sunbow series - 1985-1987
GI Joe: the Movie - 1987
Operation Dragonfire - 1989
DIC series - 1989-1991
Extreme - who gives a crap
Sigma 6 - 2005
Resolute - 2009
Rise of Cobra - 2009
Renegades - 2010-2011
Retaliation - 2013

That's it for the research portion of this series of posts. Next time, I'll start digging into how I can mix most everything together.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dinosaurs on the Beach

I've had this new Jurassic Park dinosaur for a little while now. I bought him at a discount because someone had stolen the "GI Joe" figure that was packed with him. I really only wanted the Allosaurus.
C'mon, who doesn't love dinosaurs? I loved them as a kid and they still fascinate the heck out of me. I'm always delighted at the new discoveries about dinosaurs. Vibrant colors and feathers were probably the height of dinosaur fashion back in the day.
I think it further confirms that these creatures were not big, slow, lumbering reptiles, but were a different type of animal whose descendants are birds. Fast-moving, warm-blooded creatures.
I really dig the color palette used for this critter. Just so cool looking! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Another look at the 50th Anniversary of GI Joe

Perhaps the greatest action figure line in the history of toys turned 50 years old today. GI Joe turned 50 this year. The ancestor of the action figure reached the ripe age of 50 years old. That's pretty significant to me because I recently turned 50; actually I'll be 52 this year. Damn, where did the time go?

Just some opening clarification - this is all pretty much my interpretation and opinion - it ain't worth much. I'm not one to dig deep and find out facts and all that sort of stuff. I interpret what I read and form my own opinion. And in my humble, simple opinion, GI Joe saved Hasbro's corporate butt at least twice. Once with the original introduction of GI Joe as a 12" Man of Action and again in 1982 with the rebirth of GI Joe as a 3 3/4" Real American Hero. 

The original GI Joe put Hasbro on the toy manufacturer's map, turning them into a powerhouse throughout much of the 60's on into the early 70's. The Real American Hero line gave Hasbro the financial ability to expand into areas like My Little Pony and that odd little line of transforming robots.

One would think that Hasbro would be grateful to their extraordinary in-house brand and really roll out something amazing for the 50th Anniversary of the brand. Just to clarify - to me, it's the BRAND first, not 12" painted head vs. the 3 3/4' figures. Deal with it. 

GI Joe is more than a scale, it's an ideal, a virtue, a representation of all that is good in the American soldier, whether as a nameless 12" soldier or a set of characters fighting for freedom against a ruthless terrorist organization. Hell, all that is good with the United States of America.

And maybe that's not so much in vogue anymore. While we honor our soldiers around the world and the services that they provide for us - with exception to the crappy VA nightmare, there seems to be a bit of malaise toward the military, especially when it comes to toys. Please remember, I don't claim to be an expert on this sort of thing, this is all just my opinion. But it's mine and you are welcome to share and discuss with me - with a little civility at least.

I discussed Hasbro's offerings for the 50th Anniversary previously on this silly little dog-and-pony show and just wanted to elaborate a little further on the meager offerings from Hasbro.

There ain't much out there, boys and girls. Toys R Us and Big Bad Toy Store seem to be the only retail options available for the grandfather of the boys' action figure aisle - and that sucks. Not for TRU or BBTS, but just in general.

Don't get me wrong. Hasbro has done some amazing things with the brand at previous anniversaries. The 30th Anniversary was instrumental in bringing about the rebirth of the 12" Action Figure. Granted, those 30th figures were pretty brutal in terms of the original articulation of the original Joe, but those figures started something huge. Of course, we can't forget the exclusive Target Duke figure either.

The 40th Anniversary of the brand was an amazing work of art for the original 12" collector. Reproductions of much of the original line just flooded the stores - possibly to its detriment. Those beautiful, expensive sets sometimes just lingered and sat there, only to be gobbled up once the clearance markdowns arrived. From then on, Hasbro pushed pretty hard to reintroduce the 12" figure as a viable toy line, both with nostalgic repros and brand new modern military offerings. Personally, I loved the modern 12" Joes - they rocked. Yeah, that's my other GI Joe blog, and yeah, it pretty much sucks right now. One day...

The 25th Anniversary of the Real American Hero line was more of a specific anniversary related to a specific era in the life of the brand and that worked out pretty well. GI Joe was back, in a new body construction format, still at around 3 3/4" to 4" tall which led to several years of some pretty awesome figures rolling through two fairly decent GI Joe big screen adventures.

And now we have 2014 rolling around and GI Joe has turned 50. And what does Hasbro do? Hand out some toy designs from a couple years ago and slap a fancy 50th logo on it. 


I went through all of the offerings from Hasbro back here, so I really only wanted to look at specifically what I want from this series.

And this is it. One set of figures. That's all. Nothing else.
This set, "The Eagle's Edge," is of the most interest to me. 

There ain't much else that I'm interested in right now. Sure, the HEAT Viper looks pretty cool, but I really don't want another weak-ass Blowtorch figure. The Lady Jaye figure looked pretty cool until examples from China started showing up online. Holy crap, what a paint job. Snow Job and Arctic BAT? Who cares? The two variations of "Danger at the Docks"? Yeah, a nice Flint and some cool weapons and gear, but so what? I've got enough weaponry for all of my figures to wage WW3 and WW4. The rest of the stuff? I'm just not impressed.
This set really did it for me though. Everything that I have seen just looks amazing. The Hawk figure? Complete retread, but still a damn good figure, great custom fodder. The two biggest stars of the weak-ass 50th line are Destro and Leatherneck from this set. Destro seems to be a completely new sculpt figure and he just rocks. I'm looking forward to this figure. I haven't been satisfied with a Destro figure since the 25th Anniversary gold-helmet version. There's been some good ones, but just not quite there.

And then there's Leatherneck. I was never really a huge fan of the original. I thought he was decent enough and I liked the original, but he was never really a Top 10 character for me. But this figure is awesome! Sure, he's a reuse of the Retaliation Roadblock body with a new head, but so what? He looks amazing! And the Joe team needs another big dude!

Yeah, there are some kinda' new figures, but does it really say "50th Anniversary?" Not really. With all my bitching and moaning, one would think that GI Joe is near death. Maybe at Hasbro, GI Joe is on life support, but the online fan-base keeps GI Joe alive.

There are numerous Facebook pages and countless webpages dedicated to GI Joe. Should I list my favorites? I think this post has gone on long enough! If you really want to see some great GI Joe websites, check out My Fave Blog List on the right side of this silly blog. 

I do want to highlight one particular blog - Oreobuilder's Blog. I don't know the guys behind it; all I know is that they are connected to the amazing JoeCustoms website. The work that these guys are doing is just amazing. I'm sure that there are equally skilled customizers out there -  I know there are, but I just want to talk about these guys because of what they have done shows that there is still life in the brand.

My first exposure to Oreobuilder came through their 50th Anniversary Project. I've discussed this is the past and it is amazing. If you haven't seen this project, go there very soon. (finish reading my post first!) The current project, GI Joe: Resurgence is just some damn fine work. Both of these projects illustrate what could have been done for the 50th and what could still be done in order to keep GI Joe alive. I certainly can't speak for Hasbro, but it just seems like GI Joe has been abandoned. And that's a damn shame.

Yeah, GI Joe 3 has been green-lit for 2016, but the state of the toy market in general doesn't bring me hope. Maybe... We'll see what the future holds.

As for me, I'm grateful to the GI Joe Collectors Club, Hasbro's meager offerings, the online fan community, and a sense of personal contentment over my own State of the Hobby.

After rereading this post, this is some serious rambling. Hopefully it still comes across as Reasonably Intelligent.

So what are your thoughts about the current state of affairs of GI Joe?